NBCUniversal delivered a message to Donald Trump over his recent remarks regarding immigrants: You're fired.
The company announced Monday that it was severing ties with the outspoken real estate mogul and reality star who is pursuing the 2016 Republican nomination for president. He will no longer be a part of the NBC series "Celebrity Apprentice," and his two beauty pageants, Miss USA and Miss Universe, will no longer air on the network.
It was more bad news for "The Donald" since coming under fire for his June 16 presidential campaign announcement in which he made derogatory comments about Mexican immigrants while criticizing U.S. government efforts to secure the U.S.-Mexico border. Spanish-language broadcaster Univision, which also broadcasted the pageants, severed ties with Trump last week.
"At NBC, respect and dignity for all people are cornerstones of our values," the company said in a statement. "Due to the recent derogatory statements by Donald Trump regarding immigrants, NBCUniversal is ending its business relationship with Mr. Trump."
NBCUniversal and Trump's company, the Trump Organization, operated the pageants in a joint venture, which started in 2002. NBCUniversal said it would continue to work with Mark Burnett's United Artists Media Group, which produces "Celebrity Apprentice." The series, which featured Trump and his two children, will probably air with another high-profile entrepreneur as the star, according to an NBCUniversal executive unauthorized to discuss the matter publicly.
The firestorm began when Trump described the U.S. as "a dumping ground for everybody else's problems" adding: "when Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists."
Univision was the first to take action, announcing it would not air the Miss Universe pageant scheduled for July 12 even though it had already paid a $2.5-million license fee for the event. The network had recently signed a five-year deal to carry the pageant. Trump has said he would sue Univision for breach of contract.
NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt was ready to pull the plug on the network's relationship with Trump immediately after his comments, according to people inside the network familiar with the discussions. They said the company is still looking at how to legally extricate itself from its business relationship with Trump, but informed him of its intentions Monday morning.
Trump could retain full ownership of the pageants and sell the broadcast rights to another TV outlet. He did not mention legal action when the NBC announcement was brought up during his appearance at a City Club luncheon in Chicago, and suggested he understood the company's decision.
"As long as I was running for president, they were not happy with it," Trump said. "They wanted me to do 'The Apprentice.' And now with my statements on immigration, which happen to be correct, they are going to take a different stance so that's OK.... I think as far as ending the relationship, I have to do that, because my view on immigration is much different than the people at NBC."
However, Trump took a tougher stance in a statement issued by Trump Organization, which said "violating closure of Miss Universe/Miss USA will be determined in court."
He added a shot at disgraced NBC News anchor Brian Williams, who was recently demoted from his job at "NBC Nightly News." The network "will stand behind lying Brian Williams but won't stand behind people that tell it like it is, as unpleasant as that may be," the statement read.
Although Trump has a strong showing in early polls among the crowded field of Republican presidential candidates, his campaign appears to be having a negative effect on his business.
One former NBC executive estimated Trump is earning roughly $2 million an episode for his services on "Celebrity Apprentice." But the promotional exposure from a regular TV show and the pageants provided even greater value and recognition for the Trump brand name.
If NBC had kept Trump as the star of "Celebrity Apprentice" and his pageants on the air, the network probably would have faced a consumer boycott led by Latino groups angry over his remarks. Such an outcome would have made it difficult for NBC to sell commercials on the programs and ultimately turn them into money losers.
NBC's move was applauded by Janet Murguia, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza.
"NBC deserves an enormous amount of credit for reaffirming what their company stands for and, as importantly, what it does not stand for," she said in a statement.
Murguia said Trump has a right to express his opinions "however reprehensible and just plain false they may be ... but no one is immune from others exercising their own 1st Amendment rights to criticize or object to those opinions. And no one has a 'right' to a television show."